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Millennium Post

Missing link of vocational skills

Vocational skills of the labour forces in India compare rather poorly with other countries, pointing to the fact that existing system is excessively oriented towards general academic education with little or no vocational emphasis. However, the nature of employability requires coordinated efforts from all stakeholders. Therefore, it is imperative that industry, as a group, and also as individual companies, gets proactively involved in promoting skill related training and activities. The efficiency report of International Labour Organisation (ILO) of 2003 suggests that the Indian government, on one hand, felt the need to effectively facilitate initiatives by implementing measures that would enable reduction in skill gaps, and, on the other, promoting funding initiatives at lower levels of education, which can improve qualitative levels of the working masses. Obviously, the industry as a consumer of the output of the educational system has a proactive role to play in such initiatives. Harnessing of demographic dividend through appropriate developmental efforts can provide an opportunity to achieve inclusion and productivity within the country and also lead to a reduction in the global skill shortages. Large-scale skill development is thus an imminent imperative.

India’s population has positive attributes in form of a young, large and growing labour force, but faces difficulties in attainment of employment opportunities due to lack of proper education and training which can equip them for labour market. The Planning Commission of India’s task force on employment opportunities reported in 2002 that in the agegroup 20-24, only five per cent of the Indian labour force had vocational skills in 1999-2000, which was much lower than Mexico which had 28 per cent. Quality as well as quantity in the vocational training sector is deficient in India. Vocational skills provided in ITIs have outdated syllabi, which hardly match requirements of the employers, both in public and private sector. Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) in 2007 surveyed 100 such government institutes to determine whether they were equipped to cater to vocational education, high rates of unemployment, absence of local area specific scientific skill need survey and non-existence of multi-skilling for multi-operations. The survey found underutilisation of seats, absence of market demands for the trades, unavailability of computerised controlled machines and shortage of budget provision by government, vacancy of teaching staff and by and large missing support of the government. Need for reforms in the vocational training system to afford abundant and timely productive labour force remained prime concern for policy-makers in the country. Industry confederations, organisations and their partners came together as an alliance to assist creation of capable labour. Studies by industries reflect that skill shortages generally arise in the situations when employers face difficulties in finding staff with the appropriate skills, experience or qualifications to fill vacancies. Even after selection of labour, the employer finds skill gaps when the existing employees lack the required training and experiences. Low remuneration, unsatisfactory working hours, distant location, as well as dearth of sector-specific specialised skills and untrained trainers also highlight need for reforms. Confederation of Indian Industries (CII) in 2008 highlighted concerns like limited avenue availability for ITI certificate holders for further study.

Government initiated reforms through combination of own funding, multilateral assistance and involvement of private sector in order to bring efficiency in system. In a market economy, stake holders are the glue that links vocational training and employers through public policies, funding systems and curriculum frameworks having a shared goal of tightening the level of communication among educators and employers. Common feature of all the initiatives was closer involvement of industry by forming an Institute Management Committee (IMC) headed by an industry representative. IMC has been given financial and academic autonomy to manage affairs of the institute. Administrative powers like recruitment and posting remained with the state governments.

The necessity in present times is for reforms venturing in to human resource development of poorly trained personnel. Evaluation of government initiatives to enhance reforms in vocational training is also required due to existence of mismatch between attained and required skills. ITIs and ITCs have a significant problem of external efficiency as employability remains low. Three key pillions in form of   leadership development, organisational readiness for the future and broad-based latent development motivate policy-makers in inviting local entrepreneurs to share the burden of generation of skilled manpower as a way of youth employment.  

Craftsman Training Scheme of 1956 catered to demands of industries. A single window mechanism also evolved than for efficient utilisation of the available resources and integration of engineering and non-engineering trades. Several approaches emerged over a period of time to resolve problem of internal and external efficiency of ITIs.

Any government can change image of a rigidly structured regime if all stakeholders participate. Halfhearted participation by industry organisations reflects that massive privatisation of vocational training institutes remains a distant dream owing to various checks and balances amounting to controls.

The author is an IAS officer
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